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Article updated: 2/8/2013 11:52 PM

West Aurora starts fast in win over Wheaton North

By John Lemon

At least Jaylen Howze received fair warning.

Playing at West Aurora Friday night, the Wheaton North senior twice tried to drive into the teeth of the Blackhawk defense. Both times 6-foot-7 Josh McAuley stood waiting.

McAuley and Howze have known each other since they were freshmen. So McAuley didn't mind giving some friendly advice ... just before he twice swatted Howze's shots several rows up into the crowd.

"I warned him actually before he did it. He was at the top of the key and I yelled out, "Don't do it!" and he heard me," McAuley laughed.

Howze also had a smile on his face after the two emphatic blocks as he said something to the Blackhawk center who turned in the latest in his long line of big games this season with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

"He (told me) he should have passed it," McAuley said.

Those were just two of many highlights for the Blackhawks on Hall of Fame night at West Aurora. The Blackhawks bounced back from a loss to Benet in their previous game, jumping to leads of 11 points after one quarter, 21 at halftime and 31 in the third quarter of a 68-44 victory.

West Aurora (19-4, 10-1) also stayed tied for the DuPage Valley Conference with Glenbard East with three games left including a DVC finale at home against the Rams.

"We just had to regroup and refocus," McAuley said. "We just started out slow against Benet. We knew we had to pick up the pace early tonight and that's what we tried to do."

After the induction of Brian Brooks (class of 1973), Randy Norman (1984), Greg Miller (1997), and coach Jim Pittman into its Hall of Fame, West Aurora wasted little time taking control against the short-handed Falcons (11-13, 3-8).

Guard Jayquan Lee got his active hands going with three quick steals. He converted two of them into assists on fastbreak baskets for Spencer Thomas and sophomore Roland Griffin as the Blackhawks made 7 of their 10 field goal attempts in the first quarter to take a 17-6 lead.

Falcons sophomore Jake Heggland, a 6-foot-6 center, sprained his ankle during gym class Friday and didn't suit up. Stetson-bound Andrew Zelis, a 6-11 senior, also missed the first half as he finished a two-and-a-half game suspension.

By halftime the Blackhawks had outrebounded the Falcons 22-7 and led 39-18. Chandler Thomas ended the half with a 3-pointer in the closing seconds, then started the third quarter with another 3. Every West starter had at least 4 points in the first half.

"As a team it seemed we were getting a lot of rebounds," said West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman whose team earned the No. 4 seed in the Class 4A Bolingbrook sectional. "We came out against Benet flat which isn't out of the ordinary for us. We've done that quite a few times. We play a little slow in the first half at times."

Zelis returned in the third quarter and played a strong second half with 14 points and 5 rebounds. But by that time West Aurora had built its lead to to as much as 54-23. The Blackhawks made 24 of their 44 shots (54.5 percent) through three quarters while the Falcons finished at 17 for 45 (37.7 percent) for the game.

Chandler Thomas added 12 points for the Blackhawks while Matt Biegalski joined Zelis in double figures for the Falcons with 12 points.

"It's tough especially when a lot of our size was limited tonight," Falcons coach Dave Brackmann said. "We didn't sustain our energy and our execution. We knew we had to have a really good first quarter and we kind of lost some confidence there."

Brackmann felt his team's turnovers (17) and West Aurora's second-chance points early were the two keys but saw some positives getting his big man back.

"He (Zelis) was playing hard," Brackmann said. "We're trying to get him the ball. He was effective for us at times. We're going to need him to play big down the stretch."

Follow John Lemon on Twitter @jlemonDH

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